Blanche Monnier was a French woman who lived in the mid-19th century. Despite her beauty in her youth, she eventually underwent a transformation that is hard to imagine.
Blanche Monnier was well-known for her beauty and had many suitors seeking to marry her. However, when she was 25 years old, she wanted to marry an older lawyer who was not approved of by her mother, Madame Louise Monnier. Enraged by her daughter's defiance, Madame Monnier locked Blanche in a small, dark room in the attic of their house, where she remained isolated for 25 years.
While Blanche was locked in the attic, Madame Monnier and her son pretended that she had died and carried on with their daily lives. Eventually, Blanche was discovered by police, having reached middle age in an emaciated and filthy state, weighing only 55 pounds. She had not been allowed to see sunlight for the entire time she was held captive.
Early Life Of Blanche Monnier:
Mademoiselle Blanche Monnier lived at 21 rue de la Visitation Street in a wealthy area of Poitiers, France with her family. Her brother Marcel Monnier was a law school graduate, and her parents were Emile Monnier, the head of a local arts facility who passed away in 1879, and Madame Louise Monnier. The family was highly respected in the community.
The Monniers were a well-respected, upper middle-class family in the community and were well-liked by their neighbors. They were known for their kindness and were even awarded the "Committee of Good Works," a recognition given to citizens who demonstrated the highest virtues.
Blanche Monnier's decision to pursue a relationship with someone her mother disliked ultimately led to her being locked in a small room for an extended period of time. If she had chosen differently, she may not have been remembered in history. Madame Monnier was so opposed to the relationship that she believed locking Blanche in a room would change her mind.
Despite being confined to a small room for 25 years, Blanche did not change her mind about the person she wanted to marry. It was only due to the intervention of the attorney general in Paris that she was eventually released from her confinement. It is possible that she would have remained locked in the room for even longer if not for this intervention.
Blanche was originally a beautiful French socialite from a well-respected family. She struggled with insecurity during her teenage years and had a difficult relationship with her mother, often suffering from anorexia. However, by the time she was 25 in 1876, Blanche had grown into a charming young woman. She fell deeply in love with an older lawyer who lived nearby and wanted to marry him.
Blanche's mother strongly opposed her daughter's desire to marry the lawyer, arguing that he was penniless and far older than Blanche. She used all of her influence to try to prevent the marriage from happening, but Blanche refused to change her mind. Despite Madam Monnier's efforts to forbid her daughter's decision and plot against her, Blanche remained determined to marry the man she loved.
Blanche suddenly disappeared from society, and none of her friends in Paris knew where she had gone. Her mother and brother pretended to mourn her loss and carried on with their lives. Eventually, Blanche was forgotten, and no one knew what had happened to her.
The Fate Of Blanche Monnier:
Many years passed, and the lawyer whom Blanche loved passed away. Her fate remained a mystery until May 23, 1901, when the attorney general of Paris received an anonymous letter stating: "Monsieur Attorney General: I have the honour to inform you of an exceptionally serious occurrence. I speak of a spinster who is locked up in Madame Monnier's house, half-starved and living on a putrid litter for the past twenty-five years – in a word, in her own filth."
The claim made in the letter was shocking to the police. It seemed impossible that Madam Monnier, a well-respected member of the community from an aristocratic family and a recipient of the Committee of Good Works award for her charitable contributions to the city, could be capable of such a monstrous act.
Police officers were sent to the Monnier residence to investigate the anonymous claim. Despite being initially denied entry, they forced open the door and searched the home. On the second floor, they found a small, dark, and foul-smelling room. When they pried open the windows, they discovered Blanche Monnier inside.
What they found was a shocking sight. The 50-year-old Blanche, covered in food and feces and surrounded by bugs, weighed only 55 pounds and did not resemble a human.
Blanche was severely malnourished, had been deprived of sunlight, and had been completely isolated from social contact for 25 years. When the officers removed her from the room, she appeared scared and behaved like an animal.
The police were both astounded and disgusted by what they saw. One officer commented: "We immediately gave the order to open the casement window. This was done with great difficulty, for the old dark-colored curtains fell down in a heavy shower of dust. To open the shutters, it was necessary to remove them from their right hinges. As soon as light entered the room, we noticed, in the back, lying on a bed, her head and body covered by a repulsively filthy blanket, a woman identified as Mademoiselle Blanche Monnier. The unfortunate woman was lying completely naked on a rotten straw mattress. All around her was formed a sort of crust made from excrement, fragments of meat, vegetables, fish, and rotten bread. We also saw oyster shells and bugs running across Mademoiselle Monnier's bed. The air was so unbreathable, the odor given off by the room was so rank, that it was impossible for us to stay any longer to proceed with our investigation."
An article published in the New York Times on June 9, 1901 stated: "Time passed, and Blanche was no longer young. The attorney she so loved died in 1885. During all that time the girl was confined in the lonely room, fed with scraps from the mother's table–when she received any food at all. Her only companions were the rats that gathered to eat the hard crusts that she threw upon the floor. Not a ray of light penetrated her dungeon, and what she suffered can only be surmised."
The news of Blanche's discovery caused shock and outrage throughout the city (and possibly the country) as people realized that Madame Monnier had taken extreme measures to ensure that her daughter would not marry someone she deemed unworthy and potentially tarnish the family's reputation.
The Imprisonment Of Blanche Monnier:
One evening, Madame Louise, with the help of her son, tricked Blanche into going to an upper attic room and then padlocked the door, promising to only release her if she swore to end the relationship with the lawyer. Madame Louise was determined to stop the wedding from taking place.
Blanche initially refused to give in to her mother's demands and remained in the locked, shuttered room without sunlight. However, neighbors later recalled hearing her beg to be released, stating that her imprisonment was an unfair punishment and pleading for mercy.
Despite Blanche's pleas, Madame Monnier refused to open the door as long as her daughter refused to give up her love for the lawyer. Even after the lawyer passed away in 1885, Madame Monnier kept Blanche trapped in the attic, only providing her with minimal amounts of food and water. The room had become a prison for Blanche.
Arrest, Trial And Verdict:
As the officers in the attic quickly wrapped a blanket around the emaciated Blanche and rushed her to the hospital in Paris, others searched the rest of the house and found Madame Monnier sitting in the living room and Marcel in his office. Both were arrested and taken in for questioning.
Madame Monnier was immediately arrested but passed away from a heart attack in prison after only 15 days. Before her death, she confessed to the inhumane treatment of her daughter and reportedly said "Ah, my poor Blanche!" before she passed.
Blanche's brother Marcel was accused of being an accomplice in her cruel imprisonment and faced trial. He was initially sentenced to 15 months in prison, but was later released as it was determined that he had not physically restricted his sister's movement. He claimed that Blanche had lost her mind and that it was her choice not to leave the room, rather than being unable to do so.
Later Life Of Blanche Monnier:
Blanche was admitted to a psychiatric hospital and never returned to society. She lived until 1913 and passed away in a sanatorium in Bois.
After being admitted to the hospital, Blanche was given a room, washed, and dressed. Over time, she gained weight and was able to sit in a room with the windows open, but she never regained her sanity. She passed away in a psychiatric hospital in 1913, 12 years after her rescue.
Who Was Behind The Anonymous Letter?
The identity of the person who wrote the anonymous letter that led to Blanche's rescue has never been revealed. Some speculate that it was her brother Marcel who sent the letter to the authorities, but not for entirely altruistic reasons.
There is a theory that Marcel knew his mother was growing weak and would not live much longer, and therefore he realized that he would be left with the burden of keeping his sister locked in the attic. To rid himself of this problem, he decided to reveal the family secret to the authorities. Over time, this turned into a very serious crime.
As a lawyer, Marcel was aware of the legal system and knew how to use it to his advantage. By exposing the truth while his mother was still alive, he was able to claim his innocence in the situation and avoid being further burdened by the responsibility of caring for his sister. This is what ultimately happened.
If the theory about Marcel's involvement is true, the saddest part of this story is that it appears that no one truly cared about Blanche. It is also unsettling to consider that such a cruel crime could happen to Blanche, especially given that her own love interest was a lawyer.
Some people believe that a household servant leaked the information to a new boyfriend, who had no loyalty to the Monnier family and wrote the anonymous letter to the authorities, letting the consequences unfold as they may.
It is incredibly disturbing to think that a mother could go to such lengths to destroy her daughter's life and keep her locked up for so many years. It is also astounding that no one came to Blanche's rescue despite her many pleas for help. Denied the opportunity to be with the person she loved, Blanche's life took a tragic and unimaginable turn. This is a heart-wrenching and horrific story.